By Trevor Quinn
The parents of 24 students in north Mayo, who are hiring a private bus to bring their children to school, should be compensated, according to the cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council.
Families in Ardagh have been campaigning for a public service to bring their children to secondary schools in Crossmolina since July.
The children’s parents all registered their ticket requests online within the deadline given by Bus Éireann but were turned down despite meeting the criteria. They then decided to hire a private bus to Gortnor Abbey and St Tiernan’s College in Crossmolina twice daily so that their children could attend school.
Parents Sharon Callaghan and Christopher Murphy, who both have sons on the bus, have been campaigning with other local families. They live in Bunanertish, about halfway between Ballina and Crossmolina and about 6.5km from St Tiernan’s College, well over the 4.8km distance outlined under the eligibility criteria.
“My neighbours and I are 100% eligible for a Bus Éireann service,” said Ms Callaghan. “It’s so disappointing that they won’t provide one.
“I think they should cover the full cost. They said they were going to give it and then they threw up all these scenarios – you’re not within this [distance], but anybody who is within it is getting the full advantage of the free bus.
“The whole consensus of this thing was to alleviate the back-to-school costs for all families.”
The cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council, Cllr Seamus Weir, accused the government of announcing a €17.5million scheme for the School Transport Scheme in July without the proper infrastructure in place. Cllr Weir submitted a motion at last week’s local authority meeting calling for a Bus Éireann representative to attend and address them.
“It’s serious and it doesn’t make sense at all; i’s absolutely the opposite. It makes pure sense that you’d get your bus and they should be compensated.”
Education Minister Norma Foley coincidentally visited five schools in Mayo last Thursday, including St Tiernan’s College in Crossmolina.
Cllr Ger Deere said he hopes Minister Foley will make an announcement soon around the “debacle” and stressed that hundreds of pupils still have no place on school buses, including 20 pupils in Straide who currently have no permanent bus service.